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Did Napoleon really fire at the Pyramids? ∙ Napoleon 2023 and the Pyramids: The Cannon Fire Myth

Napoleon and the Pyramids: Did Napoleon really fire at the Pyramids?

Amidst the grand narratives of history, captivating myths often emerge, weaving themselves into the fabric of popular perception. One such tale involves Napoleon Bonaparte's 1798 invasion of Egypt and the persistent rumor that he ordered his troops to fire cannons at the majestic pyramids of Giza. This dramatic scene, immortalized in the 2023 film "Napoleon," has captivated audiences, painting the French emperor as a ruthless conqueror, indifferent to the preservation of ancient treasures.

However, upon closer examination, this narrative crumbles under the weight of historical evidence. Let's delve into the facts and debunk this enduring myth.

Napoleon's Reverence for Ancient Egyptian Culture

Napoleon Bonaparte was not a barbarian hell-bent on destruction. He was, in fact, a man deeply fascinated by ancient civilizations, particularly that of Egypt. His admiration for Egyptian culture was evident in his establishment of the Institut d'Égypte, a scientific body dedicated to studying and documenting the country's rich heritage. This institution played a pivotal role in advancing Egyptology, bringing to light the wonders of ancient Egypt.

Napoleon's reverence for Egypt's past extended beyond intellectual pursuits. He actively sought to preserve the country's monuments and artifacts, recognizing their immense historical value. During his campaign, he issued orders to protect these treasures, ensuring their survival for future generations.

The Futility of Cannons Against the Pyramids

The pyramids of Giza, standing as testaments to human ingenuity and perseverance, are not mere structures; they are colossal testaments to ancient engineering prowess. Their immense size and durable limestone construction make them virtually impervious to cannon fire. Firing upon these monuments would have been a futile exercise, causing minimal damage and consuming precious ammunition.

Napoleon, a pragmatist and skilled strategist, would not have wasted resources on such an ineffective endeavor. His military campaigns were characterized by calculated decisions, not impulsive acts of destruction.

Napoleon's Concern for Public Perception

Napoleon was acutely aware of the power of public opinion and the potential consequences of his actions. Damaging the pyramids, symbols of Egypt's cultural identity, would have undoubtedly provoked international outrage and tarnished his reputation as a civilized leader.

Napoleon, well-versed in the art of diplomacy and political maneuvering, would have avoided such a self-inflicted wound. He understood the importance of maintaining a favorable image and would not have jeopardized his standing on the world stage.

Debunking the Myth

The rumor of Napoleon's cannon fire at the pyramids likely originated from a misinterpretation of an incident during the Battle of the Pyramids. In the heat of battle, French troops used artillery to repel Mamluk cavalry charges, some of which originated from the direction of the pyramids. However, there is no credible evidence that any cannonballs struck the pyramids themselves.

Napoleon 2023: The Cannon Fire Myth

The notion that Napoleon ordered his troops to fire at the pyramids is a baseless myth, devoid of historical support. The scene depicted in the film "Napoleon" is a dramatic embellishment, not a reflection of historical reality. Napoleon's respect for ancient Egyptian culture, his strategic acumen, and his concern for public perception would have prevented him from engaging in such a destructive act.


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